The rocky off season for the Cleveland Browns offense continues.
A day after the team confirmed that second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel has entered a treatment facility for undisclosed incidents, the NFL announced a one-year ban for troubled wide receiver. News of Josh Gordon’s impending suspension – punishment for testing positive for alcohol — leaked last week.
Both Gordon and Manziel were punished by the team for missing the final regular-season walk-through the day before the Browns’ Week 17 game at Baltimore. Gordon was suspended for that game. Manziel, who was on injured reserve, was not allowed to watch the game from the sideline. The pair were photographed together in Aspen, Colo. shortly after the season ended.
Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer, who so often defended Gordon during a 10-game suspension last season, issued a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday in which he came down hard on the troubled wide receiver.
“As we have conveyed, we are disappointed to once again be at this point with Josh. Throughout his career we have tried to assist him in getting support like we would with any member of our organization,” Farmer said. “Unfortunately our efforts have not resonated with him. It is evident that Josh needs to make some substantial strides to live up to the positive culture we are trying to build this football team upon. Our hope is that this suspension affords Josh the opportunity to gain some clarity in determining what he wants to accomplish moving forward and if he wants a career in the Nation Football League.”
Both of those major off-field issues come after upheaval on the offensive coaching staff, with the team allowing former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan out of his contract, while firing quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.
So just what will the Browns offense look like when the team reconvenes in April for offseason workouts?
Among the unanswered questions for the Browns’ offense in Year 2 of the Mike Pettine Era:
Who will be the starting quarterback?
Veteran Brian Hoyer, the Browns starter for most of last season, is set to hit free agency, and though he had tremendous support in the locker room and within his hometown of Cleveland, it would be understandable if Hoyer tries to continue his career elsewhere unless he’s given assurances that he’ll wind up the starter by September. Hoyer would surely be confident in himself to beat out Manziel or a new rookie in a head-to-head competition this summer, but should he have to do that? Manziel, meanwhile, will be asked to learn a new offense under new coordinator John DeFilippo after struggling to pick up Shanahan’s system last year. Manziel never was ready to be a starter last season – not in August when he lost the competition to Hoyer, and certainly not in December when he played poorly in two starts. Manziel will need to make major improvements in his grasp of DeFilippo’s system, his command of the huddle and with his leadership in the locker room to become a viable starter in 2015.
Will Manziel grow up?
Manziel’s decision to enter treatment is a significant sign that he’s realizing that his party-boy lifestyle is affecting his NFL future. Though Manziel often said the right things about how hard he would practice and how much he would study, he never was able to back it up on the field as a rookie, when he spent much of his time acting like a 22-year-old college student and not a professional. It is too soon to know how Manziel’s time in treatment will change him, but the Browns certainly hope they’ll get a more mature and responsible version of Manziel in 2015.
Who is the No. 1 receiver?
Though Gordon will technically be under contract with the Browns when his suspension ends, it seems impossible to imagine him playing another game in Cleveland. Once again that leaves the Browns’ with a void at receiver. Cleveland made due for much of last season without a star – relying on veteran free agent additions like Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin and undrafted rookie Taylor Gabriel. The Browns didn’t draft a receiver last year, even as they knew Gordon was facing a lengthy suspension. That has to change this year. The Browns have two first-round picks, and it would be shocking if one of them isn’t used on a star receiver.